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Law library open limited hours February 9

February 9th, 2017 No comments

Due to the snow, the law library will be open limited hours, from 2:00 pm to 8:00 today, February 9, 2017.

Categories: LIC Delaware Campus News Tags:

Biggar than life: The forgotten story of how a girl from Delaware gained wealth and fame through the power of charm, talent, and lawyers

January 23rd, 2017 No comments
Laura Biggar

Photo of Laura Biggar from a tobacco card.

In 1902, the nation’s newspapers couldn’t get enough of the story of Delaware’s Laura Biggar, a moderately successful actress, who inherited a large fortune from a millionaire admirer and was willing to go to great lengths, not all of them legal, to keep it. Like many 19th century actors, she embellished her biography in newspaper interviews, but it is possible to verify some facts. Laura was born in Delaware in 1866, the only child of Joseph and Jane Bigger. (She changed the spelling of her last name to Biggar after she began her acting career.) Although she claimed in later interviews that her parents were wealthy, they seem to have been a modest working class family. They lived originally in Delaware City, where her father was a carpenter. By 1880, they had moved to Wilmington and lived in the Quaker Hill section of the city in a row house on 6th street.

She began performing at an early age. In 1876, 10 year old Laura appeared in charades in Delaware City, playing her part “in a manner truly wonderful for one of her age” according to a local paper. As a teenager she sang and gave dramatic readings in student recitals and charity concerts in Wilmington and nearby towns. By 1884 she was appearing in Philadelphia in light operas like Princess Ida. She then performed with several touring companies, primarily on the west coast. In 1886 she married J. W. McConnell, a fellow actor, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They had one son, J. W. McConnell, Jr., but eventually divorced. By 1887 she and McConnell had joined producer William A. Brady’s touring company, initially playing supporting roles in After Dark and She. By 1890 she was playing the lead in Brady’s production of The Clemenceau Case, a popular melodrama with a scandalous nude modeling scene.

Ad for the 1888 Webster-Brady Company touring production of After Dark, featuring Laura Biggar. The "Great London Bridge Scene" featured Laura's rescue from a large tank of water on stage.

Ad for the 1888 Webster-Brady Company touring production of After Dark, featuring Laura Biggar. The “Great London Bridge Scene” featured Laura’s rescue from a large tank of water on stage.

In 1892 she began appearing in her most successful role, as the lead in the hugely popular early musical, A Trip to Chinatown. A Trip to Chinatown was the Hamilton of the 1890s, so popular that at one point there were two productions running in New York at the same time, as well as multiple touring shows. Laura starred with Bert Haverly, a popular actor, who she may or may not have married. They claimed to be married at the time, but both denied it later. They toured together throughout most of the 1890s.

At some point in the late 1890s she met and moved in with Henry Bennett, an elderly millionaire, who owned a theater in Pittsburgh and various properties in New York and New Jersey. When Bennett died in 1902, he left Biggar the majority of his fortune, valued at approximately $1,500,000 according to the New York Times. Bennett’s other heirs quickly challenged the will.

At this point Biggar played her trump card. She retreated to a sanitarium in New Jersey, where her doctor/lawyer, C. C. Hendrick, announced that Biggar and Bennett had been secretly married and that she had given birth to Bennett’s son shortly after the millionaire’s death, the baby then dying several days later. The infant would have inherited Bennett’s entire fortune and Laura Biggar would now inherit from the child.

biggar headline ny world

Front page New York World, September 26, 1902

During the civil trial over the will, in a dramatic turn worthy of a 19th century stage melodrama, Dr. Hendrick and the chief witness, an ex-justice of the peace named Stanton who claimed to have performed the secret marriage, were arrested right in the courtroom. The marriage was a fraud. The dead infant had been procured by Dr. Hendrick from the morgue at his sanitarium. Biggar, Hendrick and Stanton, were charged with conspiracy. After a sensational trial, Hendrick and Stanton were convicted but Laura Biggar was acquitted.

A triumphant Laura eventually settled her civil suit with Bennett’s estate, receiving $620,000 plus $1,800 a year for life. This is the equivalent of about $17 million and $50,000 today. One newspaper account claimed that when she sold her share of Bennett’s Pittsburgh theater, she insisted on receiving the money in gold coins weighing 713 pounds, which had to be carried to the train station by 6 porters.

She next moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico with Dr. Hendrick, whose conviction had been overturned on appeal, where she bought a newspaper and made Dr. Hendrick the editor. The paper went out of business after a year and she then moved to California. In 1910 she was living in a hotel suite in Los Angeles.

But Biggar wasn’t done keeping lawyers in business yet. In 1903, she was sued by Dr. Hendrick’s wife for alienation of affection. That case continued until 1910 when Mrs. Hendrick won a $75,000 judgement, said to be the largest alienation of affection judgment at the time. Laura married Dr. Hendrick in 1916. They were married until his death two years later. She was also involved in a lawsuit over the sale of Bennett’s theater and was sued several times for failing to pay her bills.

After 1910 Laura Biggar dropped out of the newspapers and lived the rest of her life quietly, in the wealthy Jefferson Park section of Los Angeles with her son and his wife. She died in 1935. I have been unable to find an obituary for her.

 

Categories: Delaware Tags: ,

Law library closed for winter break

December 21st, 2016 No comments

The library will be closed from December 23rd to January 2nd. Please check our hours during winter break.

Happy holidays and we’ll see you when we resume our regular hours on Monday, January 9th.

Categories: Delaware Tags:

Delaware weird laws go to the movies

August 25th, 2016 No comments
1949 newspaper advertisement for Delaware's first drive-in theater.

1949 newspaper advertisement for Delaware’s first drive-in theater.

Weird law: “R” rated movies shall not be shown at drive-in theaters.

Status: true (but not enforced and probably unconstitutional)

This weird Delaware law is a perfect example of a law passed in response to what seemed like a pressing social problem at the time, that has since been rendered irrelevant by changes in technology and social norms.

Delaware’s first drive-in theater opened in 1949 on route 13 south of Wilmington. The Brandywine Drive-In promised affordable family entertainment in the privacy of your own car. Drive-ins were soon a success in Delaware and throughout the United States, reaching a peak of popularity in the 1950s. But by the 1970s drive-ins had fallen on hard times. Many drive-in theaters began showing adult films and low budget exploitation movies to stay in business. This led to complaints from people living near drive-ins that the movies were visible from public streets and homes where children could watch them.

The debate raged nationwide for several years. Some theaters tried to solve the problem by erecting fences, but this was expensive and unattractive. A special screen was even tested which prevented anyone not immediately in front of it from viewing the movie. (It does not seem to have been a success.)

Many municipalities and states passed laws to prevent drive-ins from showing offensive movies if they were visible from outside the theater. Delaware’s law, passed in 1974 (11 Del.C. § 1366) was fairly typical and banned any film “not suitable for minors,” specifically including those rated R. Of all the state laws still in force, it is the only one that specifically bans R-rated movies. Most other states banned X-rated or “obscene” movies, although some states and municipalities banned all movies with any nudity.

In 1975, a case involving a drive-in theater manager arrested for violating a Jacksonville, FL ordinance banning drive-ins from showing films containing nudity (the R-rated sexploitation film Class of ‘74) went to the United States Supreme Court. (Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, 422 U.S. 205 (1975)) The court found the Jacksonville ordinance unconstitutionally overbroad and overturned it.

The R-rated slasher film Silent Night Evil Night showing at a Delaware Drive-In in 1975

The R-rated slasher film Silent Night Evil Night showing at a Delaware Drive-In in 1975.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Delaware law remained in the state code, but the provision against R-rated movies doesn’t seem to have been enforced. In this 1975 ad, the Ellis Drive-In (the former Brandywine) is showing the R-rated slasher film Silent Night, Evil Night and in this 2000 photo the Diamond State Drive-In is showing two R-rated movies.

The ability to show R-rated movies didn’t save Delaware’s drive-ins, however. The Diamond State in Felton, the last drive-in theater in Delaware, closed in 2008.

Other states with laws regulating the content of movies shown at drive-in theaters include:

Maine
Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 17, § 2913

Nebraska
Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-809

New Mexico
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-37-3.1

North Dakota
N.D. Cent. Code § 12.1-27.1-03.2

South Carolina
S.C. Code Ann. § 52-3-100

Vermont
Vt. Stat. Ann., ch. 13, § 2804

Welcome back to the Delaware Law School law library

August 22nd, 2016 No comments

Widener Law LibraryIt’s another new school year! We’re happy to see our new and returning students back in the law library. Please stop by for studying or research. Why not check out some of our study aids? We have plenty of computers, carrels, tables and comfortable chairs for studying. Our reference librarians are waiting to help you, so please ask us any questions you may have.

You can also visit our website for more information.

Categories: LIC Delaware Campus News Tags:

Power outages this weekend

June 8th, 2016 No comments

The library will be closing Friday, June 10th at 2:00 p.m. due to a scheduled campus-wide power outage. It is possible there may be another power outage this Saturday or Sunday. Please call 302-477-2244 to verify our hours before you come in.

Categories: LIC Delaware Campus News Tags:

Library hours for Memorial Day

May 23rd, 2016 No comments

The library’s hours this week are:

Monday, May 23 to Thursday, May 26 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday, May 27 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

We will be closed May 28 through May 30 for Memorial Day.

More information on library hours is on our website.

Library closed this weekend for graduation

May 18th, 2016 No comments

The law library will be closed this weekend, May 21 and May 22, for graduation. Congratulations to all our graduates.

For more information on library hours see our website.

Categories: LIC Delaware Campus News Tags:

Library exam hours

The law library will be open extra hours during the final exam period, April 28 through May 30.

Thursday, April 28 to Monday, May 16 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Tuesday, May 17 to Thursday, May 19 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday, May 20 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information on library hours see our website.

Categories: LIC Delaware Campus News Tags:

Free PB&J for National Library Week

April 11th, 2016 No comments

it's peanut butter jelly timeCelebrate National Library Week at the Law Library April 11-15 with FREE PB&J. A PB&J bar will be set up in the lounge section of the library from 11:30am – 3:30pm April 11-15. You just have to make the sandwich yourself! Event is open to students, staff & faculty.

Categories: LIC Delaware Campus News Tags:

Spring break hours

February 26th, 2016 No comments

The Delaware Law School law library will be on limited hours during spring break. Also, please take note the library will be closed on Saturday February 27th, due to a scheduled power outage on campus. For more information on library hours see our webpage.

February 26 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
February 27 CLOSED
February 28 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Feb. 29-Mar. 3 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
March 4 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
March 5 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
March 6 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Delaware Supreme Court to hear oral arguments at Widener Delaware Law

February 4th, 2016 No comments

On Wednesday, February 10th the Delaware Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at Delaware Law. Three cases are scheduled for argument:

  • 10:00 a.m. – Smith v. State – This is Defendant’s direct appeal from his convictions for possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition by a person prohibited. The sole issue on appeal is the defendant’s argument that the Superior Court (Parkins) erred in refusing to suppress the evidence of the weapon and ammunition. The Superior Court found that there was not probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant but concluded that the seizure was justified because Defendant was a witness to his juvenile companion’s “crime” of riding a bicycle at night without a light. Defendant asserts that riding a bicycle at night without a light is not a crime.
  • 11:10 a.m. – Nash v. Barra – This appeal involves derivative litigation arising from GM’s production of faulty ignition switches. The shareholders appeal the Court of Chancery’s (Glasscock) dismissal of their complaint. Plaintiffs contend on appeal that the court erred by: (i) failing to give Plaintiffs all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the facts; (ii) holding that Plaintiffs failed to properly allege facts sufficient to establish demand futility; and (iii) holding that Plaintiffs didn’t adequately allege a Caremark claim.
  • 12:30 p.m. – Horbal v. Shapira – Plaintiffs/shareholders appeal the Court of Chancery’s (Laster) dismissal of their complaint with prejudice. Plaintiffs asserted breach of fiduciary duty claims against the directors of Seegrid Corp. and Seegrid’s largest shareholder and creditor, Giant Eagle. On appeal, Plaintiffs assert that the court erred in dismissing their complaint with prejudice based on collateral estoppel and lack of standing.

Please read the information on courtroom protocol.

Categories: Delaware Tags:

Library hours changed this weekend due to snow

January 22nd, 2016 No comments

Hours update: Due to the snowstorm this weekend, the library will be open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, 1/23, and 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Sunday, 1/24.

Categories: LIC Delaware Campus News Tags:

Law library closed for winter break

December 23rd, 2015 No comments
winter

photo: TCDavis flickr

The law library will be closed for winter break, December 24 through January 3. We will reopen January 4th.

Categories: Delaware Tags:

Law library winter break hours

December 18th, 2015 No comments

Starting December 22nd, the library will be on shorter hours for winter break. We will be CLOSED from December 24th to January 3rd. Enjoy your break!

December 22 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
December 23 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
December 24-January 3 CLOSED
January 4 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
January 5 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Categories: Delaware Tags: